Tag Archives: Video Games

From Back In The Day, Episode 2: Star Ocean ‘Til the End of Time

For the few of you that are interested in reading this silly old blog of mine, I apologize profusely for the extreme delay in this post. But that’s what happens when your computer breaks and you have no money with which to replace it, so you have to wait four months for some French-Canadian dude that you know to give you one of his old computers that he totally doesn’t need anymore, and then you find out that your wireless internet adaptor doesn’t work with the new computer so you have to buy a long-ass ethernet cable, and then when you finally have a working internet connection, you find that you totally have no desire to write anything until today. So, for all of that, I am truly sorry. And hopefully, I will now be back to posting semi-regularly. But maybe not, because I’m moving again in a week. But I’ll try.

Anyway, on to the post at hand!

There was a point, not too long ago, when I enjoyed nothing more than a new JRPG to commandeer all of my free time. I mentioned in my Final Fantasy Retrospective that the RPG genre was and is my favorite video game genre, though the JRPG has fallen a little lower on my list of video game priorities. But back in those years, when to me, the JRPG was just the cat’s meow, two video game developers had their paws elbow deep in my wallet.

These developers were Gust, the developers of the Atelier, Ar Tonelico, and Mana Khemia series. The other was Tri-Ace, of Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean fame. And that’s the developer about which I would like to speak today.

It all started in 1999 in my local video rental store. Every week or so, my parents would allow me to rent a new video game for a few days. And back then, this was how I decided which video games that I wanted to own. And during this particular visit to the video store in 1999, I was walking down the PlayStation aisle and came across a new game entitled Star Ocean: The Second Story. For some reason, I had been led to believe that this particular game was a sequel to Lunar: Silver Star Story (the PlayStation remake. I had no idea that it had been a Sega CD game with an already established sequel. I was twelve and had very limited internet access, so how could I know?), one of my favorite games at the time. And the pictures on the back of the box even looked kind of similar. So, I grabbed it.

After popping Star Ocean into my PS1, I quickly realized that it was clearly not of any relation to my beloved Lunar. But at the same time, I also realized that this was far better than my beloved Lunar. It had detailed character sprites, rather than the squat potato people of Lunar (though Lunar had much better monster sprites, I will give it that). It had a fast-paced, real-time battle system. It had a complex story with multitudinous endings with a large cast of playable characters, all of which interact differently with each other. Star Ocean: The Second Story was and is a great game. And, more importantly for this post, it got me very interested in Tri-Ace.

From then on, you could say that I was Tri-Ace’s bitch. Every time a new game of theirs was released, I grabbed it immediately. Even Infinite Undiscovery, which I barely even played, because it was so bad (the last original game I ever bought from them was Resonance of Fate, which soured me to Tri-Ace altogether. I have no idea what they’re doing anymore). So, if I was willing to buy those turds of games, you can imagine how incredibly excited I was when a new Star Ocean game was released. It was called Star Ocean: ‘Til the End of Time. Even the title sounded poetic.

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The game certainly looked promising. I mean, even though the series had transitioned to 3-D character models instead of sprites, it still looked similar to the previous game, so my hopes were high. But as it turns out, this game would be the beginning of Tri-Ace’s descent into suckitude.

Except it almost wasn’t. That’s why this game still hurts me so badly. It was a great game until it suddenly wasn’t.

Firstly, Star Ocean 3 has a fantastic battle system. It took the great system from the last game and made it more dynamic and hectic. It had a pretty steep learning curve, however. It took me a long while to fully understand and master it. But once I did… damn. To this day, I think that Star Ocean 3 has my single favorite RPG battle system of all time.

Graphically, I’d say it’s about on par with the PS2 standard of the day. Some of the cutscenes and spaceships look amazing. Some of the character models, textures, and monsters look less so. Not to mention, the character that you control runs like a freaking weirdo.

The character interaction that made the previous games so engaging are still intact here, but the impact of them is considerably lower. In the previous game, you can get multiple endings involving the pairing up of any two characters, each getting their own little scene before the credits. In here, however, you can only pair up the main character with one other character. And that makes it far less interesting.

Speaking of the main character, what the hell is up with Tri-Ace and their characters’ names? The main character here is named, I shit you not, Fayt Leingod. That is the stupidest name of all damn time. Now, you could say, “Hey. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi game. That kind of thing happens. Haven’t you ever heard of Daenerys Targaryen? Or Aragorn, son of Arathorn? Those are equally odd names, and they fit perfectly!” and normally, you’d be right. But those stories take place in their own worlds with their own rules, and I can buy those names and accept them, even if I don’t particularly like them. But Star Ocean takes place in our universe. Fayt here if from Earth. He has a gal pal named Sophia. He meets another Earthling named Maria. So, how in the world did he end up with a stupid name like that? And that’s not even the worst of it. Throughout the game, you get new party members from different planets. They’re humanoid, sure, but they’re still aliens. Do you know what their names are? Peppita, Cliff, and Roger, just to name a few. Again, these are aliens with distinctly Earthling names. So where the fuck does Fayt come from?! I’m sorry to sit here and dwell on this, but it has bugged me ever since I first played the game! If Cliff had been named Fayt Leingod, I still wouldn’t like the name, but I could accept it. Tri-Ace has always been silly about naming their characters. In the previous game, the Earthling character is named Claude. Okay, nothing wrong there. That’s a good, Earthling name. But what’s his father’s name, you ask? Ronixis. While one of the aliens is named Noel Chandler. What the poop? And what’s the main Earthling character’s name in the fourth game? Edge Maverick. Ugh…

But seriously, I’m done bitching about stupid names.

So how is it, do you ask, that a game with my absolute favorite battle system can fail so hard in your eyes, O Wise Organ Miner?

Well, to properly answer your question, I have to tell you a little about myself. I am a gamer of the belief that, in most cases, story is king. Story trumps gameplay. I can have a game with the best game feel I’ve ever experienced, but as soon as the story becomes stupid, all of the enjoyment is completely sucked out of the game for me. Now, that doesn’t mean a game is automatically bad if it doesn’t have the best story. And it doesn’t mean a game is automatically good if it has a good story. There has to be a certain balance between the two, but given the choice between story and gameplay, I’ll take story every time.

So what that means here is that if I was a person that valued gameplay more than story, I would consider Star Ocean 3 a great game. But, I value story. And this story sucks. In fact, it takes a monstrous, watery dump all over the entire story of the whole series. Star Ocean, Star Ocean: The Second Story, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (the fourth game) are all made worse by the story of this game. In fact, the only way that I can still enjoy the second one is if I straight-up pretend Till The End of Time simply doesn’t exist.

And what really sucks about this is that, until a certain point in the middle of the game, the story is fine. It’s not the best, but it was okay. But then, out of nowhere, the writers just seemed to think, “Hey, you know what would make this story a lot better? If we made this story a lot fucking worse!”. And what really, really sucks for me is that I can’t properly explain why this story sucks so hard without spoiling the whole game. But what I can say is that it takes the events from the first two games and the events thus far in this game, and makes them practically meaningless. In fact, now that I really think about it, the story is actually something that’s been told a hundred billion times, only in a much stupider way with way more plot holes. And it’s made even worse by the fact that, even if it is a cliché, it still had potential and could have been a cool story. And it’s made even worse by the fact that the ending comes so close to fixing it, but falls short.

And one last thing, the optional secret dungeon with over 200 floors is one of the most tedious and horrible things I have ever experienced in gaming and it leads to nothing but two of the most bullshit battles in gaming history.

And you know what the really fucked up part is? I still give Star Ocean: Till The End of Time a recommendation. Because in the end, it still has a battle system that, when mastered, is one of the most fluid and satisfying systems out there, not even equalled by the following game in the series. The Private Actions, though not as involved as the second game, are still great fun to see. And though the story really doesn’t rub me the right way, I can actually see others enjoying it… kinda. You need to decide for yourself.

Gameplay: 8/10: There were a couple things that I didn’t mention that take points away here, like not being able to fast travel and some stupid dungeons and puzzles.

Music: 6/10: I’d say it’s above average, but not very memorable.

Graphics: 7/10: Again, about on par with PS2 standards, but with some really nice ones, and some not-so-nice ones.

Story: 2/10

Total: 6/10


From Back In The Day, Episode 1: Sweet Home (Famicom) vs. Sweet Home (1989)

Okay, so when I said that my first From Back In The Day would be about Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, I lied. But this subject is far more interesting, I think and may just awaken you to things you had no idea existed. So instead, you get this.

In the distant year of 1989, in January, a new horror movie was released in Japan entitled スウィートホーム (1989), also known as Sweet Home (1989).

 

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The English caption at the top of the poster there actually has nothing at all to do with the film.

It was graphic, gory, and involved shadows that melt people. But at its most basic, it was just a haunted house movie. It was certainly enjoyable, and the make-up, special effects, and puppets were all pretty impressive.

Later that same year, in December, and also only in Japan, a video game was released on the Famicom by Capcom. This game could really only be classified as a survival horror RPG, and is, in fact considered not only the first survival horror game, but is indeed a precursor to Capcom’s many Resident Evil games. It was challenging, filled with puzzles, surprisingly atmospheric, tense, and creepy despite its 8-bit limitations, and brutal and violent to look at. Unfortunately, because it was so visually violent, it would not see an international release.

Luckily for me, some enterprising internet dweller decided to translate it and release it for emulation online, so I got to play it. This video game is entitled スウィートホーム, also known as Sweet Home. Coincidence?

No. The film and the game share the same title, because they tell the same story. The Famicom game is a remake of sorts. In fact, it’s said that the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, was deeply involved in the development of the game.

So, having experienced both the film and the game, I thought it would be an interesting venture to compare the two.

Like I mentioned, they share the same plot. A group of people enter the ruined mansion of Ichiro Mamiya, a famous fresco artist, in order to recover and document a lost painting (or paintings in the game). While there, shit goes down and people melt.

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It’s sad that we never got to see this majesty on our American NES. Oh, but seeing Hitler’s head exploding in Bionic Commando is fine!

Both the film and the game are, in their own ways, grind-fests. The film is pretty damn slow at the beginning, but picks up nicely by the end. And the game, being a turn-based RPG, requires a lot of level grinding, even moreso than many other RPGs considering that if one of your five characters dies, they’re gone for good, healing items are so rare, and each character can only carry two items at a time.

Normally, I would really hate such a limited inventory, but in this case, not only does it work, but it really works. It does wonders to add to your sense of desperation, having to decide which items you need to bring with you at what time. It makes you really think about the survival aspect of this survival-horror game.

As much as I wish Capcom would have taken the random encounters and all of those other JRPG elements out, with the limitations of the Famicom, it’s hard to imagine what else they could have done to keep the horrific and tense nature of the game at the same level.

Visually, both the film and the game are done remarkably well. Though it almost seems like a joke to compare the two. The filmmakers had a great deal more resources at their disposal than gamemakers for the Famicom. But both did very well with what they had. Though, the overworld perspective in the game is a bit off. They use the same character sprite no matter which direction you face, so it always kind of looks like the characters are laying on their backs. It’s weird.

Where the game kills it though, is in the soundtrack. The overworld themes do a great job of making you feel uneasy throughout, and the battle theme is frantic, giving you the feeling that every battle is a desperate struggle, even when it really isn’t. I rarely remember the soundtracks to movies, mostly because the soundtracks to movies are rarely a point of focus to filmmakers. And I can’t remember a single tune from the film.

But there is one deciding factor here when it comes to determining which version of the story I enjoyed more. And that is how the story is told.

Now, without giving the plot away, I can say that it is not bad, especially for what boils down to a haunted house story. It’s disturbing and just plausible enough to work.

In the film, the story is pretty much a mystery until a character, which had only been in the movie briefly until this point, just kind of comes out and explains everything… and then he melts.

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Did I mention the melting?

And you know what, that’s acceptable. They only have so much time to tell a story and cultivate a sense of mystery, a sense of horror, and a body count. And at least he was in the movie for a short time before just appearing to tell us everything that we were wondering.

But the game goes above and beyond here. The story is told mainly through journal entries of the owner of the mansion, through hidden messages in his frescoes, and through corpses that talk to you. And though the character mentioned above is in the game, and does shed some light on your situation, he’s only a small part of it. For the most part, you discover what happened and why by yourself, through your own investigation. And that’s just brilliant. It makes the entire game multitudes more immersive. And that puts it over the top. You discover the clues, you uncover the horrific reasons behind this haunting, and you put it all to rest or die trying. Some guy didn’t just come out and tell you what happened.

And it is that factor that makes Sweet Home for the Famicom superior to Sweet Home the film. As strange as it might be to think that a mass of 8-bit pixels and noises can be superior to a film with real-life actors and special effects. But it’s all in how the story is told, and the way the game did it kept the pacing even and the atmosphere tense and dreadful. And though the movie is pretty good, that one factor makes the game more successful in the endeavor of telling this particular story.

Now, if anyone who happens to see this post wants me to do a full review of either the film or the video game, let me know. But if not, this is all you get on the subject of Sweet Home, and I hope you enjoyed it.


Dude, I Don’t Even Know: Double Dragon Neon

One of my great achievements as a gamer is beating the original Double Dragon NES game without cheats or Game Genie, just three lives and my own mettle. What can I say? I was just in the zone. I was fighting for right with the might of the dragon (I think only seven people in the world will get that reference). I got past those stupid blocks in the final level. That douche with the machine gun couldn’t touch me. And the final boss was disappointingly easy. Funny story, I went back to the game the next day with a Game Genie code to give me nine lives instead of the usual three, and I couldn’t beat it.

Anyway, strange personal tangents aside, Double Dragon was a pioneer in the beat ’em up genre. It spawned a great sequel in Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and a  not-so-great sequel with cool music with Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones on the NES. After that, it got a crappy beat ’em up sequel and an even crappier fighting game on the SNES, plus Battletoads/Double Dragon, a decent crossover game for the SNES and Sega Genesis. It also spawned one of the most hilariously awesome/horrible cartoon shows and one of the most hilariously awesome/horrible movies that I have ever witnessed. After that… nothing. For a long time, we didn’t see hide nor hair of the Lee brothers. To my knowledge, there was only a Gameboy Advance remake of the original Double Dragon, which I only played once. After that, I was almost certain that the Double Dragon series was dead as Prince Imhotep.

And as it turns out, I was right! As from its long-buried sarcophagus arose the reanimated mummies of Billy and Jimmy Lee. And with them came a new game entitled Double Dragon Neon.

When I heard about a new Double Dragon game coming to the PSN, I got reasonably excited. Though it hadn’t been my favorite game series of all time, I remember always having at least one Double Dragon game in my household at any one time. So, it was exciting to finally get a new game to play. And when I did, there was only one thing that I could say.

“Uh… hm.”

On the title screen, you are greeted with a rather heavy and rocking remix of the original Double Dragon title screen. That’s pretty cool. Then you start the game and Marian is punched in the stomach and slung over the shoulder of a faceless baddy. At this point, I was getting a little worried. I was beginning to think that this was just another remake. But then, Billy and/or Jimmy emerges from the building and says, “Marian? Aw, man! Not again!”. So… It’s not a remake? And then we’re greeted with a rock remix of the Stage One theme from the original Double Dragon. So, that’s promising. So far, we’ve heard nothing but remixes.

The first thing you’re going to notice is probably the new look of the series. There are 3-D characters rather than sprites and, if the title didn’t give it away, everything is covered in neon lights. Now, for the most part, this is okay. Most of the characters look okay, if not a little bit weird. But then, Billy and Jimmy (you know, the people that you’re going to be looking at for the entirety of the game) look stupid! And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

They’re wearing basically the same outfits that they did in previous installments, but on the new, slightly disproportionate character models, it looks even sillier. Pair that with a slightly dimwitted looking face and a silly pompadour/mullet hair style (and look. Jimmy even complements it with some mutton chop sideburns. That’s a solid fashion statement right there), and you quickly wish that you were playing as somebody else.

The next thing that you’ll notice is that everybody moves really fucking slowly! Hey, Billy. You might walk a little faster if you didn’t walk sideways and do your ninja pose the entire time. This may seem like only a mild complaint, but honestly, this plodding pace can really get to you after awhile. There is a way to run, but it takes almost two seconds to execute and you can’t control yourself while you’re running, so it makes it practically useless. It’s not like say, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, another beat ’em up that I have recently played, where the character moves really slowly. But in Scott Pilgrim, you can start running on a whim and can move up and down while you do it. That, and you can improve your movement speed by leveling up and eating sushi, so it no longer becomes a problem. In Double Dragon Neon, it’s a problem through the entire course of the game, especially when some of the bosses can teleport on a whim and make you chase them around the battlefield.

The fighting system is kind of fucked up and, let’s face it, archaic. Just like most beat-’em-ups, your main goal is to progress to the right on the x axis to reach the boss and end of the level, but you can also move up and down on the y axis to line yourself up with an enemy to punch him or avoid an attack. And this, though it mostly works, has its problems. If you are not on the exact same plane of the battlefield as the enemy for which you are aiming, you’re hitting nothing but air, but guess what. The enemies can still hit you! Maybe I’m just imagining it, but it certainly feels like you have a larger hit box than the enemies.

Neon also falls victim to a couple other outdated beat-’em-up staples. Like the game reading your controller inputs to create psychic enemies that can dodge and counter pretty much whatever you do. And enemies attacking you from off-screen when you had no idea they were there. And enemies becoming invincible in the middle of your combo so that they can get a free hit on you, especially if they are using a weapon. And throwing in clunky platforming, a beat-’em-up mechanic that you be buried alive in a landfill somewhere, for no reason other than “The other games did it”. And all of these beat-’em-up clichés don’t belong in our console games today. They really hurt the gameplay and the overall enjoyment of the game as a whole.

That’s not to say that there are not any changes made to the formula. Double Dragon Neon, instead of allowing you to just spam the Spinning Cyclone and the Flying Knee, focuses more on ducking and rolling to dodge enemy attacks. When you successfully dodge an enemy attack with the L2 button with the right timing, you enter what’s called ‘Gleam’, where your attacks are doubly powerful for a few moments. This can be the difference between getting your ass kicked and doing some ass kicking of your own. It takes a little while to adapt to it, but once you do, it does make the game marginally more enjoyable. That would be more than marginal if the damn Gleam mechanic actually worked half the time. There were definitely moments where I would dodge an attack and get Gleam, and then just a moment later, I would dodge the same attack with the same timing, and I would not get Gleam.

I have to get off of this subject. Typing the word ‘Gleam’ so many times has made my fingers begin to necrotize.

Also included in Neon is a Special Move Bar located directly under your Life Bar. Pressing R2 activates your special move. And what’s kind of neat here is that there are multiple special moves that you can equip and level up, so pressing R2 will do something different depending on which special move you have equipped. Of course, I ended up simply using the first one you get as, in my opinion, it’s the best one. These special moves drain your Special Meter, and your Special Meter is refilled by attacking enemies.

There are also things in Neon called ‘Stances’, which are basically items that you equip and level up to raise your stats and do some other things like absorb health. This is kind of cool and allows the player to change the game slightly to fit his or her own playing style.

But, as nice as these Special Moves and Stances are, leveling them up is a huge pain in the ass. You level them up by picking them up over and over again. And, as you can probably divine for yourself, certain enemies drop certain items. That’s tedious enough as it is, but there’s more. You can only level them up so high before you have to visit what’s called a ‘Tapesmith’ and have him raise that item’s level cap, after which, you would need to farm for it again. But wait, that’s not all! You can’t visit the Tapesmith from the Level Select screen, oh no. That would just be far too convenient. Instead, you have to visit a stage in which a Tapesmith is present and progress through the stage until you reach him. This is a bullshit mechanic and there shouldn’t have been a single person that thought this was a good idea. But wait! That’s still not all! In order for the Tapesmith to upgrade your items, you need to give him Mythril, which can only be obtained by defeating a boss. And each time he upgrades an item, he requires a higher number of Mythril pieces to upgrade it again. This means that, not only do you have to farm enemies to get the item in the first place, but you have to farm bosses to get Mythril just to be allowed to farm enemies again! And considering how short the game is, you’re going to be fighting the same few bosses countless times just to fully upgrade one Stance or Special Move! Tedium, thy name is Double Dragon Neon.

Now, you may be wondering why it’s called a Tapesmith. Well, this is because your Special Moves and Stances come in the form of, for some reason, cassette tapes. Now, quick question. How many people out there that actually play video games even remember what a cassette tape is? This is where I begin to get confused about just what this game is trying to be.

At different points, it feels like it wants to be a comedy with its goofy voice acting and bosses and rocket pagodas and sing-along credit song. At others, it seems it wants us to take it seriously as a hardcore action game. Sometimes it feels like it wants to be a parody of the beat-’em-up genre. Other times, I feel like I need to leave the room because of just how much it wants to pay homage to it all night long. Sometimes, it seems to want to be a parody of itself, or maybe even the youth of today, by making Billy and Jimmy do air guitar at the end of each stage and using words like bro-op and bro-five. But, I think its main goal was to be a parody of the entire ’80s. But you see, when it tries so hard to be so many things, it kind of ends up as nothing.

And I think that’s what bugs me the most. I got nothing out of this game. Any enjoyment that I got from it was quickly counter-balanced by all of the stupid shit they threw at me. It had some comedic parts and some interesting mechanics, but it also had a stupid, simplistic story, outdated mechanics from old games, mind numbing tedium in its item improvement, and a complete inability to decide what it wanted to be. All of this makes me say that Double Dragon Neon should be played maybe once, because I can see how some people might enjoy it more than I, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth more than one playthrough.

Gameplay: 4/10: It loses a lot for using old mechanics and that whole, horrible Tapesmith thing.

Music: 8/10: I may not have mentioned it, but a lot of the heavy rock music, despite a few remixes here and there, is actually pretty good.

Graphics: 6/10: Despite a few ugly character models, they still come out a little above average, I think.

Story: 4/10: It’s far too simple and stupid. But it gets a point for being comedic and parodic.

Total: 5/10


Final Fantasy: A Retrospective

I recently played Final Fantasy XIII-2. I had a good time playing it. It looked amazing, as Square Enix games tend to do. The storyline and gameplay were both better than Final Fantasy XIII. There were some things that pissed me off. Like, the story, though not bad, was a little complex and even nonsensical. And Mog got me so angry throughout the whole game. Seriously, Moogles do not literally say ‘Kupo’. Moogles say kupo like a cat says meow. Some of the sidequests and enemies were stupid and annoying and downright bad. But I still had fun collecting as much as I could, making my party members stronger, and I really loved the monster hunting/raising.

So, here’s my score for Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Gameplay: 7/10

Music: 6/10

Graphics: 10/10

Story: 7/10

Total: 7/10

Yeah, I know that review was horribly short, but I promise, I am not gypping you here. What I have planned here is something much bigger than myself and the review of one silly video game.

The Final Fantasy series as a whole holds a very special place in my heart. Along with the Mega Man series (to this day, my favorite franchise), I grew up with Final Fantasy more than any other series. Mario and Sonic may be two great series of games, and I played a lot of them. And they are almost definitely far more influential as far as video games go. But nothing got me into the experience of playing a video game like Final Fantasy. I remember my first time playing Final Fantasy III (VI) was also the first time that I ever felt truly immersed in a game’s environment, the first time I cared deeply for a video game character, and the first time that I was genuinely floored by a game’s plot. I realize that there were probably some massive, epic, and equally good RPGs that had been released before FFIII, but I was a bit too young for those at the time. FFIII came out at just the right time. At a time that I was ready to attempt a video game that would take more than a couple hours to successfully beat. And I never looked back. Mega Man may be my favorite franchise, but because of Final Fantasy, the RPG genre remains my favorite genre of video games.

And whatever you may think about the series’s quality, you cannot deny its influence. Think of it like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I hate The Rolling Stones, save for a few amazing songs, but I understand that without them, many of the bands that I do like wouldn’t exist. Just like without Final Fantasy, many of the video games that we enjoy today would not exist. The RPG genre, the fantasy genre, and in fact, the entire video game industry would likely not be anywhere near its current status were it not for this series.

I thought about all of this as I was gathering my thoughts for my Final Fantasy XIII-2 review, and I realized that I had a lot more to say about the whole series. I decided that I would much rather do a retrospective of the whole series so far and give my thoughts on how the games have evolved. And I decided that I wanted to do it as a countdown from my least to most favorite.

But first, a few bullet points:

  • This series and its influences are far bigger than any of us. I cannot give a detailed analysis of each game or tell you about the effort put into them by their creators. All I can do is offer an opinion. I can tell you what I like and what I think does work and what does not work. I only ask that you treat it as such. I am not trying to change anyone’s mind about their favorites or otherwise. There are multitudes of opinions and points that can be made for each and every one of them. So, if my opinion in this list does not quite gel with yours, that’s fine. Feel free to leave some feedback with your own opinions and points. I’m excited to hear them.
  • Speaking of feedback, a comment will not be approved for public viewing if it is not constructive in any way. This is a debate that I honestly enjoy if it is done intelligently and reasonably. A comment of, “You fucking suck you piece of shit!” doesn’t help anyone, whereas a comment reading, “I fucking disagree and here’s why!” is fine. Cursing is fine. I obviously like to curse. But the former comment just does not further any conversation while the latter at least keeps the debate open.
  • I will only cover games in the main series. So that means that sequels/spin-offs like X-2 and XIII-2 will not be included. This also means that Final Fantasy Tactics will not be included, or else I can tell you that it would take #1. Also, no Final Fantasy Adventure, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, etc. 
  • I will also not be including either Final Fantasy XI or Final Fantasy XIV. I avoid MMOs like I avoid Justin Bieber chatrooms. Plus, I have heard nothing but horrible things about both of these games, and I have no desire to play either of them at all. So, feel free to include them in your own lists, but don’t yell at me because I didn’t. This leaves twelve games to be counted down.

So, without further ado, I bring you Organ Miner’s Final Fantasy Retrospective.

#12: 

I can already tell that I’m diving straight in to unpopular opinion, but I’m just going to say it. I hate FFIX. And this is the only one of the series that I can truly say that. But it’s true. There is very little that I honestly like about this game. A lot of the graphics are nice. Some monster designs are really cool like Soulcage and Maliris. And I like some of the soundtrack. But that’s it. The character design and character models are hideous with their grossly disproportionate heads and bodies. They don’t look like people at all, and they’re just ugly to look at. I could overlook this if any of the characters were likable. But no. Most of them are straight up boring and flat. I hear a lot of people say that they like Zidane because he enjoys life and he’s not some emo crybaby like Squall or Cloud. And that may be true, but Zidane only enjoys life because he’s an arrogant, womanizing douchebag. He’s a terrible person. What gets me is the fact that so many people love this one, and I simply can’t see it. The characters are uninspired, the story is uninspired, the villain is uninspired, Tetra Master, the card based mini-game is uninspired (and needlessly complex). Fuck it, the whole damn game is uninspired. There’s something to say about a game when its sidequests are more fun and interesting than its main storyline. I had more fun delivering mail to moogles and digging up treasure boxes all over the world with my chocobo than I did finding out Zidane’s origin. Not to mention, it has the worst method of learning abilities that I have ever seen. If you want to learn a good ability, you need to use a piece of crappy equipment? No. I can’t find the good in that.  One thing that I can say to FFIX’s credit is the fact that it is one of only three games in the series that has multiplayer (which is the only reason I played it more than once). But even that could not save it from the #12 spot.

#11: 

Complain as I might about FFIX, FFIII came really close to taking the #12 spot. But it has one thing, one innovation to keep it from being my least favorite game in the series. And that is the Job System. This was the first game to implement such as system, and I love a good Job System. It’s a big reason why I would place Final Fantasy Tactics as #1 if I had the option to do so. A good Job System is a great way to add a layer of customization to your game. Sadly, I think that’s the only good thing about this one. Aside from the Job System, there’s no real innovation and I found myself getting bored. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from getting it when the Ouya is released. I’m curious to see if they’ll improve and innovate.

#10: 

“But Organ Miner, if you have such a boner for Job Systems, why place FFV so low on your list?” you ask? Granted, the Job System is done remarkably well here. I love it. That and Gilgamesh. I really like Gilgamesh. But the rest is kind of crap. FFV suffers from all of the same problems that FFIII did with small improvements across the board. The big problem that I have though is that pretty much everything about FFV is worse than the game that came right before it. Graphically, FFIV is a bit better and its story is far superior. Aside from the Job System, FFV made no improvements to the series whatsoever. I didn’t like a single character (again, except for Gilgamesh), and FFV contains quite possibly the most standard and lackluster villain ever. The final boss was really cool, though.

#9: 

Okay, now we’re getting into the Final Fantasy games that I actually enjoy… Well, kind of. I really liked FFXII up to a point, and then I didn’t. It had some innovations and it did manage to update the outdated ATB battle system by making it feel like I was doing more than just waiting for my next turn (even though that’s still all I was doing). It also had the complex Gambit system, which is pretty neat and allowed you to develop your own  AI party strategies so you didn’t have to put in a bunch of commands all by yourself. The problem with the Gambit system though is that, if it’s manipulated enough, you can let the AI do everything for you. You don’t even need to play. I won’t knock it too much though, as you can choose not to do that. Graphically, the game was stunning and its art style was something that I hadn’t quite seen before. The story and characters were pretty bland, but not awful, I guess. No, I began to dislike it really late in the game with some really poor dungeon and enemy design choices. It really began to feel like a chore just to play the game. But I stuck with it and collected as much of the sidequest stuff as possible, but after the game did not give me the Sagittarius bow after I fulfilled all of the requirements to get the Sagittarius bow, I stopped collecting the optional stuff and just went to beat the game. It took 120 hours to ultimately be disappointed.

#8:

The one that started it all. I didn’t beat this one until it was released on the GBA as Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls. And I thought that was done pretty well. While it was quite seriously a Dungeons and Dragons game, this was the game that practically launched the RPG genre. Games like Dragon Warrior perhaps set the groundwork and built the genre in the hangar, Final Fantasy is the game that made it take flight, and you have to give it some credit for that. The initial NES release is a bit annoying and difficult and honestly, not a whole lot of fun, when I finally saw the rest of the game with Dawn of Souls, I finally got to see the rest of the story, and got to see it without the burden of the poor translation that was all early Final Fantasy games. And the story is good! It’s a bit more complex than you might expect from an old game such as this. Plus, the way it ends actually kind of lives up to its title. Final Fantasy. It was kind of cool to see the title kind of make sense for once.

#7: 

“Blasphemy!” screams the masses. FFXIII is pretty consistently panned by most of the people who have played it. I am in the very small majority that doesn’t hate this game. Is it the greatest thing to happen to video games? No. Is it my favorite Final Fantasy game ever? Clearly not, seeing as I just rated it as #7, still in the lower half of the list, and I said its sequel was a better game. But dammit, I don’t think it was bad! There are some legitimate complaints out there: the linear dungeon design, the overemphasis on graphics, even the battle system, which I personally enjoyed, I can see why others might not. And those reasons are why it’s as low as it is. But there are some other complaints that need to be addressed here. A lot of people complain about the battle system because you can just hit Auto-Battle and have the characters do the work for you. But you can’t really complain about that because you don’t need to do it. How can you trash something if you have the option to turn it off? Others complain about the story, and I admit, not much of the story is conveyed through gameplay. But everything you need to know is contained within the Encyclopedia or Data Log section. If you take the time to read that stuff, you can find some pretty interesting shit. It’s a lot more thought-out than one might think. That can be considered a problem, sure. But for someone who enjoys reading and learning the history of these games, it becomes less of a problem and more of a discovery. Like this: My sister played the game and complained that the main villain just kind of appears out of nowhere simply to supply us with a villain. That would be a valid complaint. But I read the Data Log and learned all about him well before the characters had even heard of him. If you just take a little time out of your flashy battles to learn a little history, you find a pretty solid story. But like I said, this is nowhere near my favorite. Most of the characters, I simply didn’t like. But I could relate to and sympathize with Sazh and I thought that Lightning, despite having a silly name, was pretty cool. None of the music, save for the basic battle music, came out at me, which is disappointing, because the soundtracks tend to be some of my favorite parts about these games. All in all, I’m just sorry this poor game gets so much hate.

#6: 

This is where I admit that some of these choices in the middle rankings are a bit arbitrary. To be honest, FFI, FFII, and FFXIII are pretty much interchangeable here. I like them all pretty equally. From what I can remember, FFII was not the most memorable game in the world. But what I do remember clearly is the way that you improve your characters. They improve and level up depending on how you use them and what weapons they use. This gave the game a great deal of customization when it came to your characters, and that’s great. That little innovation alone was enough to give FFII a fairly high spot on the list. It gave it a replay value that nothing else could offer at the time. In FFI, you pick your character classes at the beginning, sure, but you’d better be damn sure about those choices, because you can’t change ’em. Here, if you don’t want someone to use a sword anymore, that’s okay. You just grind a bit and make them good with a bow. Any character could be any kind of fighter. And since I don’t remember disliking the story or the characters or anything, I feel comfortable rating this higher than FFV and FFIII, even if I like the Job System a little more when it comes to customization.

#5: 

Okay, here’s where I really expect some shit to come my way. Final Fantasy VII just barely makes the Top 5 for me. I can admit that, when it was new, I was taken in by it, too. But I played it a bit more recently, and I simply don’t think it holds up that well. It’s quite possibly the most overrated game of all damn time. Now, do not get me wrong here. It’s a good game. You know what, fuck it. It’s a great game! It did a lot of shit right, and I still think that its Materia-based magic system is one of the best there is. But I think a lot of people only like this game as much as they do simply because it was the first game of the series that they played. If they could just look at it objectively, they’d see that FFVII is not a perfect game. I’ll admit, there was a time that I truly thought that this was the pinnacle of gaming, that its only flaw was that it ended. Now that I’ve grown, matured and removed my nostalgia glasses, I see that, though great, FFVII is most definitely flawed. Its background graphics are beautiful, but its character models are not. Its translation is awful. Barrett is a hulking racial stereotype. Cloud and Vincent are whiny crybabies. I’ll admit, I think part of the reason I like it less as time goes on could be because to this day, I constantly hear people rave about how great it is, when it’s clearly not as great as they think. When you hear it so much, you begin to get bored of the whole subject. I also hate the fact that this game got more spin-offs than any other game in the series. Sure, Crisis Core was okay, but it was a story that didn’t need to be told. Dirge of Cerberus was trash. Vincent may have been a crybaby, but his backstory was interesting, but Dirge shat all over his character. And Advent Children was a piece of gold-plated shit. It looked pretty, but it was still just a piece of shit. And FFVII’s fans just won’t shut up about it. They praise Sephiroth as one of the greatest video game villains of all time, which is wrong on more than one level. He’s not even the villain. Jenova is. But I’m beginning to rant here. If you need a more detailed overview as to my feelings on this game, let me know privately. But the gist of it is, it’s a really good game with some definite flaws and horrible fans.

#4: 

This is one that I cannot fully explain. I truly love FFIV. And I’m not sure why. I mean, I love it, and I definitely have to rate it higher than VII, but as I’m thinking about it right now, I can’t think of any reasons why it’s technically or mechanically better. I like some of the complex relationships between the characters, and I believe that this was the first one to kill off an important character, a party member even. And this is a theme that they continued until, what FFVIII? That’s a big step. It’s got some cool monsters, which I always like and one of my top 3 favorite Final Fantasy final boss themes. But I can’t think of any characters besides Kain that I really like. There’s no customization in your party whatsoever. You can’t even decide which party members to bring to the end of the game. And it’s not like previous games or even FFV where there are only four playable characters. There are lots of them here, but you have to bring these predetermined five people? And yet, I love it. I enjoy it multitudes more than VII. Maybe there’s a bit of nostalgia here, seeing as this is the second one that I played, but it wasn’t that much later that I played VII. There has to be something here that I’m just missing, some reason why this one makes it so high on my list. As a game, I honestly don’t think it’s any better than VII, and yet, there’s no doubt in my mind when I rank it higher.

#3: 

FFX gets a lot of guff from gamers. Some of it is deserved, much of it is not. The story is good, but not as good as say, FFVII. Many of the characters are annoying or bland. The mini-games are a tedious pain in the ass. “Then why,” do you ask, “do you rate it so high on your list?”. For two simple reasons, my dear readers. The Sphere Grid and the battle system. For those that don’t know, the Sphere Grid is FFX’s system of leveling up and learning abilities. It’s a massive board, reminiscent of a board game, covered with stat bonuses and abilities with each characters at their own starting place. With the use of orbs that you find throughout the game, you can unlock these stat bonuses and abilities with each character. They each start out with their own predetermined role in battle, but with a little work, you can have any character do anything. It allows for a great deal of customization within your party and makes no character better than another (except for Wakka. He’s the best). Plus, they revamped the battle system, doing away with the outdated ATB system of almost every game before it. Battles flowed more smoothly and were a great deal more fast-paced without being too different from previous installments. To this day, I believe FFX has the best battle system of any of the franchise. And it boggles my mind that Square would go back to the damn ATB system in every installment after. I also want to address another area in which this game gets a lot of disapproval from the public. The main character, Tidus. People in general hate this guy (but love Zidane… go figure). This hatred stems mostly from FFX’s infamous Laughing Scene, and yes, the Laughing Scene is horrible. But Tidus is great as a character. He’s a crybaby (which is very different from an emo. Get it right all of you anti-Tidus people!) doing everything in his power to prove to his father and himself that he’s not a loser, and until a certain point in the game, I hated him too. Though he’s active and full of life, Tidus is also annoying and cocky. But by the end, he has grown and matured tremendously. In fact, I’d say that Tidus is probably the Final Fantasy character that grows the most. And that makes him a good character, goddammit! If you’re going to hate anyone from FFX, make it Yuna or Rikku.

#2: 

If there was any one area of this retrospective for which I would get any shit, it would be here. If there has been any Final Fantasy game that could be considered universally hated (besides XIII), it would be this one. Except, unlike FFXIII, I cannot figure it out at all. In my humble opinion, FFVIII improves upon its esteemed predecessor in almost every way. The only major flaws that I can find, even playing it more recently, are the Draw System and the translation. The Draw System wouldn’t even be a problem if you were allowed to Draw just one more spell per action and its something that I can easily overlook because of the rest of the game. And the translation, paired with a kind of complex story, makes the actual conveyance of the story a bit poor. I’ll admit, when I first played the game, I thought the story was kind of crap. And if I had left it at that, FFVIII would be considerably lower on the list. But after hacking through the terrible translation and figuring out a few things for myself, I found that the story is actually amazing! Dissenters also hate the Junction System, which blows my mind. They say, “Eh, you can just get so powerful that nothing can touch you. It makes it no fun!”. That is a 100% invalid argument, because you don’t have to make your characters that strong! That’s the genius of Junctioning. You can customize your party in any way that you want. Make them as powerful or as weak as you want. That’s the true heart of any real RPG. Getting to go through the story in a way of your choosing. Let’s take the character of Zell. His design suggests that he should be a physically powerful character, focusing on punching things in the head. But with the Juction System, he can be as powerful a mage as anybody, should you choose to do that. And that’s brilliant! People also hate Squall, calling him the epitome of emo, and I can kind of see that. But if you look at his history at all, you will notice that he has genuine psychological issues and a desperate fear of abandonment due to his past experiences. So, yeah he’s going to be introverted. You would, too! Squall make be a bit sulky, but the truth is, he’s probably one of the most relatable characters ever. Not to mention, the graphics are amazing (except for some character models, which are still fantastic by PS1 standards), the cinematics rival some games today, it has the best Final Fantasy mini-game to date with its card-based Triple Triad, the side-quests are all interesting and fun to discover, its soundtrack is still one of my favorites, the final string of boss fights is still jaw-droppingly cool and intense, and overall the execution of the game is brilliant. I want to say that the main reason that people spew bile so viciously at FFVIII, whether they will admit to it or not, is because it was too dissimilar to FFVII. Like I mentioned earlier, FFVII was the first game in the series for most of the American gaming community. So, when the tone, environment, and system were changed so drastically, many of these late bloomers did not want to adapt and that translated to straight hatred. And that’s truly sad, because I see this game as a near masterpiece.

#1: 

Am I being a bit hypocritical by rating the first Final Fantasy game that I ever played as my favorite? Especially after criticizing many FFVII fans for doing just that? Maybe, but dammit, this game is phenomenal! Also, let me say that I’ve changed my mind a million times over the years. FFVII was my favorite for a while. FFX was my favorite when it was new. And FFVIII took the #1 spot for a long time. But, FFVI would always find its way back into my mind, my heart, and my SNES. And now that I’ve grown and matured as a gamer and as a person, I feel like I can finally form an educated opinion based on not only my own personal preference, but on a more objective view of the series as a whole. And this one still comes out on top. I’ve beaten this game more than almost any other game in existence (save for maybe Mega Man III, which I’ve beaten probably 100 times), and almost every time, I’ve discovered something new, be it a new item or treasure chest, or an interesting bit of character development. And I’m still not sick of it. I recently started playing it again with my girlfriend and also started playing the GBA re-release. I’m doing these at the same time! There are a massive amount of playable characters, adding up to fourteen, I believe. And all of them, except for Mog, Umaro, and Gogo, have very interesting and fleshed-out stories and histories. The story is fantastic, regarded by many, myself included, as one of the greatest RPG stories of all time. The Magicite System of magic, though perhaps not the most innovative system ever, is perfectly executed and allows for at least a degree of the customization that I’ve been raving about so feverishly throughout this whole list. The soundtrack is still my favorite video game soundtrack of all time, with every song perfectly encapsulating the setting in which it is played. FFVI has the Opera Scene! The final boss fights are massive and incredibly symbolic. Kefka is probably one of the most detestable (and successful) villains ever. Everything is simply done right. However my opinion on the series may change in the future, I’m fairly certain that Final Fantasy VI will always end up on top and will remain one of my favorite games, not only in the Final Fantasy series, but of all time.

So there you have it. One more opinion in a sea of opinions. Though, even if nobody reads this, I still had a great time writing it. It was an interesting venture to finally put all of this down in writing. And I have to say, I even surprised myself at a couple points. And I do wish that I could do a more in-depth analysis of each one of these multitudinous games. And perhaps I will at some point in the future, but it won’t be here. It would take months or even years to complete such a venture. But, maybe when I am so inclined and free to take on something so massive, I can start a YouTube channel for it or something. But in the meantime, you have one humble gamer’s opinion, and I hope that will do.


So Much Orks!: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

I know about as much about Warhammer 40,000 as I do about particle physics, meaning that there are a couple very basic things that I know and understand, and even that is probably wrong. My youngest sibling and an old friend were into it for a couple years some time ago, so I managed to get a little snippet of Warhammer knowledge here and there just through osmosis. But it wasn’t nearly enough to get me at all excited when a Warhammer 40,000 video game was released, subtitled Space Marine. I had seen a little gameplay footage, and it looked kind of fun. Nothing spectacular, but I could see myself playing it one day if I managed to get it for really cheap.

Well, recently, I had a chance to get it for free. And I couldn’t pass that up. I’d play almost any game once if I could get it for free. And this one, I had actually kind of hoped to play at some point, if only to whittle away a few hours. And it did just that… Seriously, that’s all it did.

Yeah, there was nothing really bad about it, but at the same time, no part of the game really stood out at all. The graphics were about on-par with your average PS3 game. The music was inoffensive, but not really gripping either. The challenge was pretty static all the way through, with no action sequence killing me more than twice (on Normal Mode). It took about 6-8 hours to complete, which is about average for shooters, I think. The voice acting and dialogue were solid, but nothing to write home about. The story… well, that’s hard to talk about in one sentence, so I’ll save that for later.

Probably the best thing about Space Marine was its simple control scheme. You use the shoulder buttons for guns and grenades, you use the Square, Triangle, and Circle buttons for your melee. You use the X button to roll. It’s easy, it’s simple, and anyone with two functioning hands can get the hang of the game within the first couple minutes. It makes it a very accessible little video game that anyone can enjoy as long as they don’t mind a bit of violence.

At least it would have. This is where the story comes in. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I know basically nothing about Warhammer and its lore. And playing through Space Marine really made me realize just how little I knew. I’m not even sure if the story is good or bad, because there are so many terms being thrown about that would only make sense to someone who has studied the lore. And at no point do they ever explain exactly what any of them mean, which left me having to infer just about everything. I know it makes sense that the characters wouldn’t suddenly stop and say, “You do know what the Inquisition is, right? Well either way, let me remind you. Two hundend quintillion years ago, the Inquisition did this thing with a robot and a fondue fork and that’s why we can’t have nice things…” (I think that’s it. I had to fill in a few blanks on my own). The characters know this stuff already, but if you don’t, you’re left in the dark. This makes the game very much not newbie friendly. It was built for people that know Warhammer a bit more intimately than I do, and that may alienate people that don’t necessarily want to go out and buy Warhammer books or spend hours on Wikipedia  just to find out what exactly is happening. I think it would have gone a long way to simply include an Encyclopedia section in the main menu that the players could peruse at their own leisure if only just to acquaint themselves with the lore. I think I would have gotten considerably more enjoyment out of the story had an Encyclopedia been included.

There were definitely a few more problems, too. Like I said, it’s nothing too bad or game-breaking, but there are definitely a few things that take away a couple points from Space Marine’s Gameplay score.

The AI isn’t great, mostly on the part of your friendly NPCs. There were certainly a few parts where one of my partners was directly responsible for my death. They tend to stay out in the open and just kind of walk around while they shoot, which isn’t inherently a problem, since they’re invincible, but when they do that, they tend to get in my line of fire or directly in my path as I try to roll away from an enemy’s grenade, causing me to explode and die painfully. They enemy AI wasn’t great either. There were multiple times when an enemy got stuck on an obstacle and since their AI dictates that they don’t use their weapons until they arrive at their destination, they just ran in place until I killed them with an axe. This wasn’t too common though, and I was able to get through the game without getting too annoyed by it.

One thing that really bugs me personally is the fact that they had some strange Checkpoint placement. Usually, it’s fine, but once in a while, they place a Checkpoint just a few seconds off from where they should. Like, you would get a Checkpoint, then a cutscene, then an action sequence. The problem with that is if you die during the action sequence, you have to watch the cutscene again. And you can’t skip the cutscene either, otherwise this wouldn’t be a problem. Why wouldn’t they put the Checkpoint after the cutscene?

I don’t know how much I use the word ‘repetitive’ on this blog, but if I were only allowed to use it just one more time, it would be to describe Space Marine. Throughout the first maybe two thirds of the game, you only do one thing: You go from one point to the next, fighting nothing but Orks along the way. Oh wait, that’s wrong. You fight some turrets once, and that turns out to be even more boring than the Orks. Holy hell, there are so many Orks! And there’s nothing else! At all! Fight some Orks, then you walk, you fight some Orks, then you walk, you fight some Orks, then you walk, you get a freaking jetpack and for one glorious moment, the monotony is broken ever so slightly, but all you do with the jetpack is go from one point to another killing Orks along the way, only now you have a jetpack which is taken from you after only a few short minutes, at which point you walk and fight some Orks. And it’s made even worse by the fact that every encounter goes on for far too long! Some of the action sequences included upwards of fifty and sixty enemies (I’m estimating a bit, but I know I’m not that far off)! As soon as you kill all of the Orks on the screen, another giant group of them just comes out of the damn walls! This is where Space Marine’s simple, accessible control scheme that I was praising earlier becomes just as much a detriment to your enjoyment of the game as it is a boon. You end up doing the same couple moves and firing the same guns at the same enemies over and over. And though it’s not too difficult, it does get rather boring.

And then, finally, two thirds of the way through the game, a new enemy appears! And for one brief, wondrous moment, all is right in the game-o-sphere. There are actually a couple parts where the Orks and these new enemies are fighting each other with you and your Ultramarines wedged firmly in the middle. These sections would turn out to be my very favorite parts of the whole game. They’re intense and new and you’re finally playing the game a little differently! It’s very refreshing. But guess what. There are only two or three of them. Then all of the Orks run away and for the rest of the game, you do nothing but fight the new enemies… Woo…

This bugs me for more than one reason. I may not know much about Warhammer, but I’m pretty sure there are more than two kinds of races that could have found their way into the game, if only to spice the action up a little. And there were quite a few to choose from, if I’m not mistaken, like the Tyranids, the Tau, Necrons, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Protoss, Zerg, the Nibblonians, the Reavers, the Daleks, the Zygons, the Sharks, the Jets, the Quakers, the Bakers, the Candlestick Makers, the Elder Gods, the Cylons, the entire Fox Network, the Vogons, the Hutts, the Head Crabs, the Muppets, and many more.

What was I doing? Oh yeah, the point is that there was nowhere near as much variety in the gameplay or the enemies as there could have been and should have been.

Though I think I just came up with the greatest crossover action game of all time!

Anyway, after the many hours of fighting through the same enemies over and over again and realizing that the developers probably should have ended the game about two hours ago, you finally come to the final encounter with the main antagonist. First, he sends twenty thousand more of the same enemies that you’ve been fighting this whole time while talking smack to you, but then, when all of the regular enemies are finally dead, you can ready yourself for a final struggle against the villain. Who knows? If this rather repetitive game culminates in a good final boss battle, you may even be able to rate it a point or two higher on your review blog! Wouldn’t that be something?

The final battle is about to begin and then… oh… you… you shoot him a few times with your pistol, do some quicktime events, and you win… Yeah, well that was an A+ final boss battle if I ever did see one!

And then, and this could just be me, the ending itself kind of felt like a big fuck you.

I know the last few paragraphs probably sounded like I was completely trashing the game, but that’s not entirely true. Like I said early on, Space Marine was a decent game. It didn’t do anything to stand out from any of its competitors, but I can tell you that I had a pretty consistent amount of fun all the way through the game with a few exceptions on both sides of the Fun Spectrum.

But with that being said, I’m never going to play it again. I’m fairly certain that I got just about as much out of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine as I possibly can. To someone that cares for Warhammer and its universe, I can see how it may have some replay value. But with its repetitive gameplay, slightly poor AI, and perfectly average everything else, I can say that for me, it has none.

Gameplay: 4/10: Super-duper repetitive with no payoff at the end.

Music: 5/10: Nothing noteworthy.

Graphics: 7/10

Story: 5/10: Like I said, I can’t actually discern whether or not it’s good or bad, so I have to rate it average.

Total: 5/10: It’s an average little shooter.


Ornstein and Smough Can Fuck Themselves: Dark Souls

Several years ago, a game came out. This game was unforgiving in its difficulty. It was so frustratingly hard, that many a hair was pulled from my head and many a nasty word was spoken to my television screen. This game would drop your pants and forcefully have its way with you over and over again whether you liked it or not. And you know something? We were okay with it. Why? Because despite all of the monstrous difficulty, the game was good! Really good. This game was, of course, Demon’s Souls.

Demon’s Souls was an expertly crafted gem with a cool story, interesting characters, awesome weapons, very nice graphics, amazing boss monsters, and a battle system that really made you feel like a badass.

Then, in 2011, a new game was announced by the same company that had created Demon’s Souls. A spiritual successor, if you will. And it was announced that it was going to be even more difficult that its predecessor. In fact, its tagline was “Prepare to die”.

This spiritual successor was Dark Souls.

Now, Dark Souls gets very mixed feelings around the gamersphere. Some criticize it for using its difficulty as a crutch to expand gameplay and just frustrated the players. Others, like myself, praise it for its system of challenge and reward. Now, I can understand some of the criticisms, but at the same time, I’m willing to bet that many of its critics did not take enough time to learn Dark Souls‘s system and intricacies and simply said, “This is too hard and it sucks” without giving it a proper chance.

But to be perfectly honest, I believe that Dark Souls did almost everything perfectly.

First of all, the word that is paramount in describing Dark Souls is ‘atmosphere’. It does everything in its power to increase the atmosphere as much as possible. The biggest contributor to this is the game’s lack of music. Only boss fights and a few select areas of the game include any music. This serves not as a detriment that makes the game boring, but rather as a way to heighten your sense of isolation, get your nerves going, and to simply increase the atmosphere. I love this. It made me feel much more like I was walking through these dungeons and I became much more immersed in the environment. If you were really slaying the undead with swords and axes, you really wouldn’t be hearing any music. And the music that is there for the boss battles is always epic and filled with various cool vocals and lets you know that some serious shit is about to happen.

The environments are numerous and varied. No two places look the same. Even the two parts of the Undead Burg that you visit are considerably different, with the upper part being wide open and scenic and the lower part filled with claustrophobic alleys. The only times that you should ever become bored with the scenery is when you die multiple times and have to run through it over and over again. More on that later. I’m still talking about atmosphere right now.

But one aspect of the game that really ramps up the atmosphere is something carried over from Demon’s Souls. As long as you are in Online Mode (which should be all the time unless your internet fucks up), you can see ghostly figures running around the dungeons swinging their weapons into the air. These figures, though harmless, have given me mild frights more than once, making me think that an enemy was running around the corner or ambushing me from behind. But it turns out that these ghostly figures are actually other players that are online and running around the same dungeon that you are. These same players can leave messages on the ground in the form of orange markings that can warn you of upcoming hazards, give you a hint as to the weakness of a boss, or trick you into jumping off of a cliff.

But one of my favorite things about Dark Souls is something that many people might not even notice. But as you’re running from Ash Lake to Lost Izalith, you may notice something missing. Loading screens. That’s right. You can run from one end of the world to the other and not encounter a single loading screen. In fact, the only times that you ever even see a loading screen are when you load your game, when you fast travel or teleport, and when you die. And they’re never long either. As a result, the game flows smoothly from beginning to end without being bogged down by excessive loading, unlike some other games that I can mention.

Graphically, the game is amazing. They may not be the best models that I have ever seen, but they’re pretty damn good. The animations are smooth, the weapons are interesting and very pretty to look at, the monsters are varied, interesting, and all around cool, the boss monsters are massive, and all of this without a single second of texture loading. You don’t have to wait for an instant to see how that new armor you got looks on your avatar, no matter how silly it may be.

That’s called the Xanthous Armor set. And yes, it’s real.

But I guess the question that’s on everyone’s mind is, “But, Organ Miner, is this game really more difficult that Demon’s Souls?”. Well, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve played Demon’s Souls, but from what I can remember, yes. In many ways, it is. Enemies are more numerous and have more abilities. They’re also smarter, for the most part. Plus, the healing items are much different. Where Demon’s Souls had different grades of healing items that healed more with each grade and that you could farm once you found an enemy that dropped them, Darks Souls has the Estus Flask, which has a limited number of uses and doesn’t refill until you rest at a Bonfire. The Estus Flask also takes about a second longer to use (which, in a game like this, is a really long time). And this forced you to be much more conservative and considerate of your healing, adding a new level of strategy to the game. You have to heal carefully, or you’ll end up losing all of the health that you just healed or dying before the healing takes effect. But at the same time, they did away with a couple things that made Demon’s Souls both more complex and difficult. They took out the World Tendency and Character Tendency, which affected the difficulty of the enemies and a few other things. They also did away with a major penalty of dying. In Demon’s Souls, when you died, you entered Soul Form until you beat a boss or used a certain item. When in Soul Form, you didn’t make any noise while walking, but you also lost half of your maximum health (yikes). In Dark Souls, you enter Undead Form when you die until you offer a point of Humanity at a Bonfire. When Undead, you cannot summon any other players and I think your item discovery rate was effected somehow. There may be more that I’m forgetting, but it wasn’t really noticable.

In general, the boss battles are more difficult as well. With the exception of the Maneaters from Demon’s Souls, which is one of the most frustrating bosses in history, and Flamelurker (kind of), I don’t remember having a horribly difficult time on any of the bosses, but rather the dungeons on the way to the bosses.

My face during most of the Valley of Defilement. If you’ve played it, you know exactly what I mean.

Though there were definitely some easy bosses in Dark Souls, like Chaos Witch Quelaag, Seath the Scaleless, and the Great Wolf Sif, and some frustrating dungeons, like Blighttown, certain parts of Anor Londo, and the Tomb of the Giants, I certainly had more difficulty with the bosses than the dungeons in general. I got through most of the dungeons with minimal frustration, but certain bosses made me rage quit hard a few times. Examples being: the Capra Demon (on my first character), the Four Kings, and worst of all, Executioner Smough and Dragonslayer Ornstein. Seriously, those guys can just eat shit and die. Without help, I almost couldn’t do it. They’re bad enough that I had to feature them in the damn title of the review!

Though, honestly, I had a much easier time with Dark Souls than I did with Demon’s Souls. But I think that’s simply because my gaming abilities have improved considerably since the release of Demon’s Souls.

I haven’t really touched on the story yet, but this is where the review gets a bit complicated. You see, very little of the story is actually revealed through gameplay. I mean, bare minimum. But, with a little research, you find that the lore and the plot are actually incredibly in-depth and carefully thought out. On my first playthrough, I just played the game normally. Sure, I talked to as many NPCs as I could find, but that was it. And at the end, I found myself very unfulfilled by the ending. But on my second playthrough, I took a lot more time to collect as many items and pieces of equipment as I could and read their descriptions. I also found more NPCs and talked to them more, paying closer attention to what they had to say. And that’s where all of the story and lore comes in: through item descriptions and NPC interactions. It also helps to watch the Dark Souls Lore videos on the Epicnamebro YouTube channel. And once I got all of that information, I found myself much more satisfied with the story and the whole Dark Souls universe. Once I got all of that information, I was blown away by how fleshed out and overall awesome this world was and it made me want to find all of the hidden goodies scattered throughout the game (and there are lots of them). I became genuinely excited when I found a new weapon or piece of armor, even if I had no intention of ever using it.

The fighting system is pretty much identical to Demon’s Souls‘s. But it’s still one of the things I love about these games, and I’m glad that they didn’t change it. Your character moves and fights like an actual human being that obeys the laws of physics (mostly). They move like a real person might move. Yeah, flashy moves and characters that can double-jump and hover in the air while attacking can be great fun. I like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta as much as the next guy, but there’s something to be said about a system like this. I felt so much more badass after beating a boss in Dark Souls than I did in say, God of War, because it felt like a real person had just overcome an immense challenge.

Now, you may have noticed that, thus far, I’ve done nothing but sing Dark Souls’s praises. And yes, it has become one of my very favorite games. But it is not without its imperfections.

As badass as I felt for beating a boss or getting through a dungeon, sometimes the difficulty did take away from the game, mostly because of the respawning. Whenever you die, you respawn at the last Bonfire that you rested at and all of the enemies reappear. And many times, these Bonfires are quite a distance away from where you died. This becomes very tedious if you’re having a difficult time with a particular boss and have to keep going through the same area and fighting the same enemies only to get your ass handed to you by the boss again. But, I’m willing to overlook this, because as you improve, both in character level and your own personal skill, this kind of thing happens less and less. It’s not like most games nowadays where the Checkpoints are so frequent, that there’s no real penalty for dying. Frustrating as it may be, this death/respawn method is actually a way of making you improve and think your playing out in different ways.

But, as much as I may bitch about this boss or that, what really got to me was the goddamn PvP. Here’s how it works, when in human form, you are allowed to summon other players and certain NPCs to help you through a dungeon or to fight a boss, which is cool and I love it. But being in human form also opens you to invasion. What that means is another player can come into your world and try to kill you. If s/he succeeds, you respawn back at a Bonfire and you are no longer in human form, which means you can no longer summon the people you wanted to summon to help you fight the boss that you can’t seem to beat by yourself. So you use a point of Humanity to become human again only to be invaded almost immediately and killed again. Worse yet, the game tends to lag when an invader is present, giving them the chance to Backstab you, most likely killing you instantly.

Admittedly, this idea is actually awesome. It can really immerse you in the game further and make you feel the inter-connectivity of this world and the worlds of the other players. But the major flaw in the execution here is your complete inability to turn the PvP off. And believe me, that’s a major flaw. Let’s say you’re just playing the game, and you come across a boss monster that you’re having a really hard time with by yourself. So, you decide to get some help. You enter human form so that you can summon an NPC (not even another player. Let’s say you only want to use what the game gives you normally). As you search for a summon sign to call another character, suddenly, someone invades you. You have no desire to fight another player, but there’s nothing you can do. Now, let’s say he kills you. Now you have to respawn and get yourself into human form again. Once you do, you’re immediately invaded by another person. This happens multiple times, and all you want to do is continue with the damn game! And the other players are making that impossible. This happened to me multiple times, and when it did, my only hope was that my internet connection would fuck up so that I could play in Offline Mode (you can still summon NPCs in Offline Mode). Seriously, you shouldn’t be prevented from making progress in the game because other players are assholes. They should just let you turn it off! I know when I’m playing video games, I normally don’t play competitively. Sometimes, it’s great. But most of the time, I just don’t have fun with PvP. So, when I’m forced into it, like I am here, it takes a lot of the fun out of the game for me. This flaw is so big, that I actually have to take a point away from the final score, thus preventing what could have been my first perfect score.

So, yes, besides that one fateful flaw, I think that Dark Souls did everything right. Beating this game had become one of my great gaming achievements, and I felt damn proud after seeing that final boss go down. Let me put it this way: I ended up getting the Platinum Trophy, and the only reason was because I wanted an excuse to keep playing. It’s not like my Platinum in Dragon Age II, a rather average game, which I only got because I have this weird goal to Platinum every BioWare game that I play. I only got it because I wanted to keep playing, and actually felt kind of bad when I did because it meant I had to move on to the next one.

Gameplay: 9/10: Because of the fucking PvP

Music: 10/10: I know I didn’t mention it much, but every piece of music is perfectly suited to its situation.

Graphics: 10/10: Monstrous and detailed enemies and bosses paired with the vast and varied environments make this an easy 10.

Story: 10/10: But only if you’re willing to do your homework.

Total: 9/10: I cannot tell you how much I wanted to rate this perfectly. But I could not bring myself to give Gameplay that 10…


Catch ALL the Pokemons?!: Pokemon Black and White Versions

Usually, when it comes to Pokemon games, there will be two games released initially and then a third ‘expansion’ game like, Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum. I was actually going to wait until that expansion game came out before I reviewed all three of the fifth generation Pokemon games together. But recently, it was announced that instead of that expansion game, Game Freak is going to release direct sequels to Pokemon Black and White. And those are going to warrant their own review, so I figured I’d finally give Black and White their own review.

This review will be a bit more nontraditional, however. I’ll say right now that these games would get a very solid 9 out of me. I loved loved lovedlovedlovedloved the fifth generation. I think it made some definite improvements to the Pokemon system such as making TMs multi-use and reducing the amount of times that using HM moves is necessary. You didn’t have to carry a shitty Pokemon with shitty HM moves just to complete the game. I enjoyed every single minute that I was playing both of them (except for the Battle Subway).

But, if you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the last year, you would have noticed that there is a great deal of 5th Gen hate going around. So many people are so rabidly against these games, even going so far as to denounce others as Pokemon fans simply because they enjoyed the 5th Gen. And to me, that makes no sense whatsoever.

So, rather than just giving these games a numerical rating, I am instead going to address all of the hate and the reasons behind it and debunk as much of it as I possibly can.

Reason #1: It Just Does the Same Thing As Before!

This complaint isn’t so prevalent, but I’ve certainly seen it. And to this, I say, where have you fucking been? There have been almost no creative leaps in the way that these games are built since the very first generation. The biggest change to Pokemon’s mechanics came with the second generation when the Dark type was introduced. Since then, the formula has been pretty much the same. So, if you weren’t complaining about this before the fifth generation, then you have no right to complain about it now. In fact, this one actually did change the basic story formula around a bit and even question the ethics of Pokemon trainers. More on that later.

Reason #2: The Villain is a Pussy! All of the Previous Ones Are So Much Cooler!

I’ve been hearing this one a lot. And every time I do, I see that when they say this, they are referring to N.

This guy

And there are a few things wrong with that statement. One, N’s motivations are actually the most thought out of any Pokemon villain’s ever. Let’s quickly go generation by generation and list the villains’ motivations (not their methods. There’s a big difference).

Generations I and II: Team Rocket led by Giovanni: They want to take over the world.

Generation III: Teams Aqua and Magama led by Archie and Maxie respectively: They want to take over the world.

Generation IV: Team Galactic led by Cyrus: They want to destroy the world and make a new one that they can then take over.

Generation V: Team Plasma led by N: Team Plasma and Ghetsis have plans for world domination, but N does not. N wishes for Pokemon trainers to release their Pokemon because he feels that imprisoning them and using them to settle all of our disputes is unethical and immoral.

Based simply on their motivations, I’d have to say that N is actually the most sympathetic and well-rounded as a character. And his motivation is actually admirable. He’s not driven by something as cliche as world domination.  And like I mentioned above, it actually calls the ethics of Pokemon training into question. It actually gives the story and extra layer of depth and makes it considerably less superficial.

The second reason that this complaint is bullshit is because N is not the villain!!! He’s an antagonist, to be sure. But there’s a monstrous difference between an antagonist and a villain. But if any of the people complaining about this had played the whole game or paid any sort of attention to it, they would realize that N is indeed not the villain, but Ghetsis is.

This guy

And if you look at it that way, the complaint goes right out the window. Because now, the villain is basically the same as all of the villains before, but again, with the inclusion of N, the story has more depth to it, and it actually makes Ghetsis, the main villain, considerably more sinister, because he was actually willing to imprison and use a child (who may or may not be his own son) for his own ends.

Reason #3: The New Pokemon Are Stupid and Unoriginal!

This is by far the biggest complaint among Gen V haters. And I’ll admit, some of them are really stupid.

Oh, dear Arceus...

But these same people sit there and talk as if there were absolutely no stupid Pokemon at all before Gen V. And hey, maybe they’re right.

Oh...

Oh...

Oh...

Oh...

Not only horrible to look at, but maybe even a bit racist.

 My point here is that every generation had its fair share of stupid-ass Pokemon. It’s possible that Gen V had a higher number of stupid Pokemon, but there are a couple things that need to be realized before this complaint can actually become valid. One, this generation introduced more new Pokemon than any other. And it’s just statistics: More Pokemon means more stupid Pokemon. They could have just made less Pokemon and concentrated on making them all cool and awesome, but I also see why they didn’t. The fifth Gen games are made in such a way that only fifth generation Pokemon can be caught until after the first part of the game is completed. And this makes sense, because the fifth gen region is quite far away from the others. So previous gen Pokemon would not be running around Unova for the same reason that giant Japanese hornets aren’t flying around downtown Chicago. And I liked it that way. It forced me to learn the advantages and disadvantages of the Gen V Pokemon before deciding to use any previous gen Pokemon.

When people aren’t complaining about how stupid the new Pokemon are, they’re complaining that they are unoriginal. They just take any old animal and stylize them Example:

Stylized polar bear

But again, every generation had Pokemon like that.

Stylized snake

Stylized sheep

Another stylized snake

Stylized hippo

 So, again, the complaint is completely invalid. And while they’re sitting there complaining about all of the stupid new Pokemon, they tend to completely ignore the fact that Generation V also added some incredibly cool Pokemon to the already expansive collection.

This Hydreigon picture belongs to the artist, Xous54.

And that’s not nearly all of the cool new Pokemon. I’m sorry people, but you cannot complain about the bad without acknowledging the good. But I constantly see people talking about this new gen like it’s some kind of affront to Pokemon and all of its fans, and that’s simply wrong. I can understand this not being your favorite Pokemon game. I can understand if you don’t particularly like it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I get that. But is it so much to ask for you to treat it as just an opinion and not a gospel that you would damn people for going against? Or if you want to treat it as such, that you at least get the facts straight before cursing those with a different opinion? It’s a simple request that anyone should be able to handle.